I feel like going visiting today!

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“Oh how this spring of love resembleth, The uncertain glory of an April day! Which now shows all the beauty of the sun And by and bye a cloud takes all away.”
Shakespere
I feel like an outing on this first day of April.  How about you?  But not just any outing for me.  I think I’ll go to England or Scotland… or maybe I’ll go to both places.  After all, I have an hour or two free.

You see, I am very blessed to have a wonderful imagination.  I suspect we are all born with wonderful imaginations but some of us fail to exercise them, and as with so many things, we  “use it or lose it”.  I use my imagination regularly.  Do you?  Oh, I hope so.  Imagination is a terrible thing to waste.

So today I decided to leave Hudson for a few hours and take a little trip.  I feel like spending some time with my lovely “dead friend” and nature artist Edith Holden.  What is a “dead friend” you ask ?  A “dead friend” is a person from the past who we get to know,  admire. and enjoy.   We meet these people by reading their biographies, autobiographies, and/or by studying and becoming  familiar with their work.  I bet you have a few “dead friends” of  your own, at least I hope you do.  “Dead friends” add so very much to life,  more than a great many living, breathing people we meet.

I met Edith years ago when I discovered her beautiful book, Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady. This book was published in 1906 by her husband Ernest.  It was published after Edith’s untimely death at age 49.   You see, Edith  drowned in the Thames while gathering buds from chestnut trees which she intended to paint.

Edith was born at Kings Norton, Worcester, in 1871 and was one of seven children of a Midlands paint manufacturer.  Her family lived in the small village of Olton Warwickshire and it was there that she wrote and illustrated her Nature Notes.

I think I’ll join Edith on one of her trips to Scotland where she studied painting for a year.  Would you care to join me?  Ok, let’s go!

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Nothing like an old fashioned train ride through the English countryside toward Scotland. Our train is powered by steam and imagination.
And here we are (That was fast!) at the home of her art teacher and his family.  They invited Edith to stay with them since she was so very far from home.  Romantic and peaceful setting, isn’t it?

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Edith’s home away from home one Summer
But let’s pop into the art studio and catch a glimpse of Edith working with her classmates.  I personally love how people ‘dressed up’ back in the old days.  No blue jeans and  t shirts for them.

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Practice makes not perfect, but improvement
Of course one can’t get very good at drawing nature while sitting in a classroom so after a certain amount of instruction in basic  technique off to the outdoors we all go.  Put on your sweater for it’s early April and the air is chilly.

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Let’s watch Edith paint a horse or two
Do you ever draw?  You should.  It’s great fun and anyone can do it.  As I said, practice makes improvement.  I love to draw flowers creating original stationery for some of the letters I write.  Maybe you’ve received one such letter.   Flowers are easy to draw.  Try drawing this one:

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Come on. You can do it! I’ll take a break from writing this post and draw this pink flower myself. I’ll create a floral notecard, then use this card for the letter I’ll be writing tomorrow to a friend in the state of Washington
Ok.  Here’s what I came up with.  I wonder what drawing you came up with.

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Erika, this is for you
If you have not  made your drawing yet, it’s ok.  You can finish reading my post and then get busy.  Art  play is really a lot of fun.  You’ll see.  But if you think flowers are tricky I wouldn’t suggest you try animals… not yet anyway.

Edith drew all sorts of animals and she was wonderful at the task.  She drew snakes, birds, butterflies, bees, mice, so many creatures –   even the occasional cow.

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MOO!
Between reading Edith’s book and viewing a wonderful four-video series I own all about her life, I can experience a faux visit to Scotland and the English countryside any time I like, getting close up looks at its flora and fauna.

I can sit beside Edith using my imagination and watch her sketch picturesque vistas.  She’s encouraged me to try my own hand at sketching.  Friends always encourage each other you know.

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The making of landscapes
We then explore streams with all their exuberant life forms and I don’t even have to get wet.

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An April flood carries away the frog and his brood — (just a bit of Folk-lore)
My time spent with Edith, looking at nature and looking at her drawings of nature, soothes my soul.

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It may indeed be only phantasy that I essay to draw from all created things deep, heartfelt, inward joy that slowly clings
Coleridge
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I love the season well when forest glades are teeming with bright forms
Longfellow
 I’ve read that spending time with things of beauty helps that beauty enter into us.  The beauty becomes us.  I can sometimes feel that happening.  Can’t you?

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Our expedition in search of wild flowers takes us across hill and dale.
To be off with Edith is a wonderful escape from one’s daily routine.  And when we’re tired from all our walking we can sit quietly together,  meditate, or share our favorite lines of poetry.

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Can trouble live with April days, or sadness with the Summer moons?
Tennyson
Yes, spending time in England and Scotland with gentle “dead friends” like Edith Holden is a wonderful experience.

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My “dead friend” Edith Holden
 And  Edith’s  spirit stays with me long after these imaginary visits.  As I walk  the garden paths in my own town, in my own time,  I can still feel her calming presence dignifying my every step.

So now I’ve introduced you to Edith, but  it’s up to you to cultivate your own friendship with her.  Perhaps she’ll inspire you to create your very own nature notes or you might get yourself some watercolor pencils and take up sketching, creating art for your home or floral note cards to send to your friends.

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Edith loved to write letters as I do
Why here’s an idea for you.  Take a walk outside and sit yourself down to sketch a flower, plant, or creature and then send your picture  to me with a note – or better yet, a letter.  I would love that!  Here’s my address:

204 E. Streetsboro Street

Hudson, Ohio 44236

USA

I’ll be watching my mail box, and of course if you write to me I’ll write back to you.  So from me and Edith  too — a fond farewell.  We’ll leave you with the entry from Edith’s nature notebook dated April 1, 1906.

STILL, WARM, CLOUDY DAY.  GATHERED SOME WILD DAFFODILS IN A FIELD.

Happy Art Play in Nature

Note:  Pictures used for this post are attributed to Central Independent Television’s video entitled The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady starrring Pippa Guard as Edith

My secret Hideaway

It’s Spring break in Hudson.  Many of my friends and neighbors have either hit the road or they’ve taken to the friendly skies in search of  escape.  Time away from all the usual things can be very refreshing indeed.  I escape to far off places now and then and enjoy myself  immensely, but it isn’t always necessary to travel  far in order to escape the monotony of life.

I enjoy regular escapes simply by turning  on my imagination, packing  a bag of supplies and heading  to my secret hideaway.  Of course it won’t be much of a secret if I keep telling people about it, but secrets are no fun unless they’re shared – at least some secrets.

My secret hideaway also goes by another name.  It can be called the Outbuilding.   What exactly is an outbuilding?  Webster defines it as a building (such as a shed or barn etc.) belonging to but separate from a house.

My personal outbuilding is inconspicuously located in the rear of our property.  It quietly sits with its back to all, commanding little or no attention.  Most of my visitors never even notice it.

When my husband first saw this outbuilding he was quite unimpressed.  In fact, he suggested we level it.  Level it?  NO WAY!   I liked it right from the start.  It was unusual, and I’ve always liked  “the unusual”  in people and in buildings too.

And so since my husband wanted no part of the Outbuilding I was delighted to make this building my own!  I do share it now and then with honored guests, perhaps hosting an afternoon tea, or serving drinks there before an intimate dinner at the house.

Would you like to pop in?  I’d be happy to show it to you if you have the time.  Why?  You know.  Sharing doubles the joy!

But put on your boots for it’s been snowing even though Punxsutawney Phil said we’d be having an early Spring.  Well, anyone can make a mistake, even Phil, still I’m told some locals are quite upset about the continuing snow.  There are “wanted posters” out for Phil.  Can you imagine such a thing?

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The Winter-looking herb garden
We must walk past the herb garden.  Do you see the outbuilding in the distance?  No?  Well I told you it was inconspicuous.  Keep moving past the barn.

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The Barn

Now do you see it?  Remember it has its back to us.   It’s hiding in the trees – perfect tactics for a secret hideaway, don’t you think?

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The Outbuilding
Doesn’t look like much, does it?  Well, let’s walk around to the front.  We’re almost there.

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A row of trees keep the Outbuilding hidden from the street – clever of the previous owners
Ok.  Ready or not, let me welcome you to my Outbuilding, my very own secret hideaway.

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The Outbuilding
It looks like a little play house, doesn’t it?  Well, that’s exactly what it is.  I come here to use my imagination, exercise my creativity, dream, read, write and  play. How and where do you play?  You do play, don’t you?   I hope so, but don’t just stand there in the cold.  Come on in!

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How ’bout a seat by the fire?
I was expecting you so I lit the candles and started a fire.  These things make the place feel so cozy any time of year.  Let me show you some of my things.  Of course I have my books, lots and lots of books.  I keep them on the shelves…

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A few books on The Art of Letter Writing
I keep more books hidden away in cabinets here, there, and everywhere for as I’m sure you know,  books can bring  the world to us  – interesting people and  great ideas.  My secret hideaway welcomes such visitors.

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More books
I’m delighted to have my maternal grandparent’s rocker, a rocker I remember from way back when.  I can remember sitting on my Dad’s lap at my grandparent’s house back when I must’ve been in the first grade.  Ah memories! Now that rocker is mine.

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To sit and rock… and dream dreams
I also am lucky to have my grandparent’s old kitchen table.  I can remember this table filled with breads and kuchens which my grandmother lovingly made to serve all of us when we came visiting every Sunday afternoon.  What ever happened to the custom of visiting?  I think we should bring it back!

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Grandma’s Table
I love to write letters on this table. (This one’s to you, Patricia)  I can sit here and look out the window at nature and ideas flow peacefully.

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A room with a view
Nature is always a most pleasant view whether it involves sunshine, rain or snow.  On warm days I open the two dutch doors and listen to the birds sing.

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The hideaway tea set
And of course I had to buy some special china for my Outbuilding.  This antique set serves me well along with any guests I may have.  Gee, I wish I could offer you a cup of tea right now.

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The firefplace
I was happy to see the color of the bricks used in the fireplace because they happened to blend nicely with some old oriental rugs we had from our first house.

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Our old rugs
Along with the rugs I pulled out some prints from storage, copies of primitive paintings… all the colors worked together.  The outbuilding sort of decorated itself.

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Primitives and candlelight

                             It was fun to choose fabrics and pillows

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A sleeper sofa, should I want to spend the night
                                             select accessories,

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One can never have too much candlelight
and hang pictures in my little hideaway –  an old portrait of me with my husband,

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Bill and CarolAnn 30 years ago
and a print of Fanueil Hall Marketplace (my husband and I met in Boston and made Boston our first  home together).

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Faneuil Hall Marketplace
                                 So here we are, in my hideaway.

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Notice the long built-in bench should I invite a crowd in for a talk on The Art of Letter Writing
There are books written  suggesting  the value of having a room of one’s own.  Well, a room is fine, but a building is even better.  When I escape to my secret hideaway, build a fire and turn on my imagination, there’s no telling what creative ideas appear.

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What is it about a roaring fire that make a person feel all cozy?
I hope you escape from your daily routine now and then. It’s not important how you do it or where you go, just that you give yourself time to be quiet and think.   Just to be quiet and think! Yes.  It could make all the difference in the world to your life.    This quiet alone time can stimulate your imagination, increase your creativity and bring you much needed peace.

Silence leads to reflection, reflection leads to appreciation and appreciation looks about for someone to thank.  As my good friend Mr. Fred Rogers used to say:  “I trust you will thank God, for it is God who inspires and informs all that is nourishing and good.”

So have yourself a Spring break,  and not just one.  Take lots of little breaks  all through the year, be they near or far away, breaks to get away from it all and be alone with yourself.  Be alone in silence.  If you have a secret hideaway of your own that’s great, but you don’t really need one.  You just need the  alone time and the  silence.

Be good to yourself

Take time to be

YOU!

                                                                        

    

  

                                                 

Good food and friendship is on the menu at Cafe Marcel

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Cafe Monsieur Marcel
Isn’t this the cutest little restaurant?  It’s situated on the Promenade in Santa Monica, California.  I discovered it while visiting my son Patrick who is in graduate school at UCLA.  One evening while Patrick and I were taking a stroll, there it was with its twinkling lights – a fairy tale-like structure, inviting us to step in and enjoy fresh flowers, candlelight, white tablecloths, and French food.  Yes!  This was my kind of place.

We dined here more than once while I was in L.A. because I liked Cafe Monsieur Marcel so very much.  It was just as delightful on a sunny afternoon for lunch.  Of course good company makes most any place delightful and I had great company,  a son I don’t get to see  often enough –  and here he is.

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This is Patrick
As I write this post on the first day of Spring in Hudson, Ohio I’m looking out my window at  snow flakes drifting down from the sky.  Punxsutawney Phil is on the wanted list in these parts for he predicted an early Spring and got all out hopes up.

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The snowy view from my window
To think at this same moment some people are walking about in shorts and short sleeve shirts (maybe even my husband who is on a  business trip in Sarasota, Florida, but could be sneaking in a little golf about now.)

At least I have my  photographs of sunny California to keep warm memories of my recent trip fresh in my mind – not only to help me remember lovely times in charming  places, but also to share some of those moments with you.  Why share?  You know.  Sharing doubles the joy.

To sit with a favorite person, partaking in good conversation while  munching delicious food in a delightful place, well, to me this is what the good life is all about.

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As I look at a photograph of our French-speaking server doing his job I can almost imagine I’m back at that cafe, and my mouth is watering as I think of the yummy dishes he could be bringing me,  if only I were still  there.

But good food was not the only thing this charming restaurant delivered to me.  It also presented me with a new pen friend.  Yes.  It’s true!  I do love to meet new people, and if they’re really nice I love to stay connected with them by suggesting we become pen friends.  You notice the lady and little girl  in the picture above?  Well, I’m delighted to say after asking this nice lady to take a picture of me and my son which she did, and here it is

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we began to chat.  I learned that her name was Deborah and that she’s a social worker.  Her little daughter had an interest in mythology and that is one topic my Patrick knows quite well so the two of them embarked in little quizzes for each other.  It was great fun.  I  asked Deborah at the conclusion of our lunch if she had any interest in corresponding, for as you may know, I am an avid letter writer, and to my great delight she said “YES”!

Some people enjoy coming home from a trip with a new piece of jewelry or some other keepsake, but I’m most thrilled to return home with a new pen friend from the place I visited.  A person can’t be in more than one place at a time, but with pen friends in lots of different places a connection to those places can be maintained.  I find this very exciting.

I’ll be writing Deborah soon and I’ll send her a copy of my pictures, especially this picture I took of Deborah and her daughter.  So sweet!

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People are very nice!  Do you reach out to strangers?  You should.  Strangers are simply great friends we haven’t yet met.  I feel very lucky to be an outgoing sort of gal who enjoys people very much.  I’m happy alone with myself, but to feel best, I also need people in my life, and though I love my old friends I’m always thrilled to make new ones.

You know what they say – People who need people  are the luckiest people in the world.  I feel lucky.  How about you?

I hope you have lots of old friends in your life, but I also hope you are open to new people who can become friends even if they live far, far away thanks to the beautiful Art of Letter Writing.

I’m so excited to add Deborah and her pretty little girl  to my family of  pen friends, for as Sarah Orne Jewett wrote:

YES’M, OLD FRIENDS IS ALWAYS BEST, ‘LESS YOU CAN CATCH A NEW ONE THAT’S FIT TO MAKE AN OLD ONE OUT OF

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So if you find yourself in Santa Monica, California on the Promenade, I highly recommend Cafe Marcel for some good food  -and maybe you’ll be lucky as I was to find a new friend there  too.

Haunted Houses

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Hower House
“All houses wherein men have lived and died are haunted houses”, so says Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and this is Hower House, a Victorian Mansion built in 1871.  It was the home of John Henry Hower and Susan, his wife.  I dropped over to sing John “Happy Birthday” along with a number of his other friends – The Friends of Hower House and a group called, The Victorians.  When you’re turning 191 years old it’s only right that people fuss a little,  pop over to your house with a cake, and sing a chorus or two in your honor.

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Carol Ann, Evelyna, and her beautiful cake
 Here I am with John’s cake and the lady who created it, my friend, Evelyna.  Not only is Evelyna a master baker and my friend, but she’s also my pen friend.  We send letters back and forth to each other in between our visits. Everyone should have talented friends like Evelyna,  plus a handful of pen friends, and of course, a few dozen “dead friends” too.

But let’s get back to John and Evelyna’s cake.  Here it is in its full delicious glory.

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One luscious slice
Evelyna calls this cake her Half and Half.  You’ll want to remember that name in case you order one for your next party.  Trust me.  It is DELICIOUS!  In between the white and chocolate cake is a European butter creme filling.  Yum!  The frosting is Italian Satin, based on a meringue style frosting recipe.  A shame John couldn’t have a piece of his own birthday cake, but hopefully he has pleasures of equal or greater value where he is now.

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John and 2nd and 3rd generation Howers
Here’s an old picture of John (on the far left) with his son and grandson.  Because I’ve been to their house a number of times I’ve learned a lot about John and his family.  I’ve learned John was born February 22, 1822 in Stark County, Ohio and I learned we have a few things  in common.  We’ve both been teachers.  John taught school for a while and I taught  music in schools.   Both John and I value creativity.  I create posts for my blog, write books, give talks on the art of letter writing, host teas and dinner parties, and John created a successful business that made him a fortune.

John was in the right place at the right time.  He met the inventor, John F. Seiberling, who patented the Excelsior Mower and Reaper, a machine that dramatically influenced the mechanization of agriculture, and they formed a business partnership that thrived  because of the Civil War.  The Union army required food and supplies and the agricultural machinery industry was there to provide what was needed.

Yes, John is one of my many “dead friends”.  What are “dead friends”?  They’re people of the past who we meet and get to know by discovering their work, reading their biographies and letters and visiting their houses.

John was truly one of Akron, Ohio’s leading industrialists, a great man, but he’s moved on now to a new address.  I’m not exactly sure what that address is, but  whatever it is, I bet he’s happy there, pleased that his Second Empire Italianate house is still being carefully maintained.  I’m pleased too, because historic preservation is important to me.

John’s house has been called one of the finest examples of Second Empire style in Ohio.  Historically, the House is the last remaining mansion from Akron’s first “Gold Coast,” and was the home of three generations of a  family that shaped history.  The Howers and their descendants occupied the home continually from 1871 until 1973.

Now Hower House is owned by Akron University and is opened to the public for guided tours. It may also be rented for receptions and private parties..

I love visiting most old houses, but I especially love visiting the old houses of my “dead friends”.  To see the very things these people lived with, the simple things, their antiques, the treasures they collected from far off places —  it’s fascinating!  But it’s not just the material goods that make a big impression on me.  It’s the very spirit of the people who lived in those places, spirit that may not be obvious to everyone, but is usually quite visible and clear to me.

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The Longfellow House
 I first experienced the  spirit of a ‘dead friend’ when I popped in at Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s House in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Henry’s spirit was  all around that house.  I felt he’d be walking through the door at any moment.  Then, as if  that wasn’t enough, I discovered his very own words on the subject.  His thoughts about spirits and houses were captured in his poem,  Haunted Houses.  Henry was my very first “dead friend”.  Many more followed, and now John Henry Hower is one of them too.  You can never have too many friends you know — be they old, new, living,  or “dead”.  As friends share their stories inspiration flows.

Drop in at Hower House when you’re in Akron, Ohio and get to know John Henry, his family and his house.  If  you’re in Boston, pop on over to  Henry Longfellow’s house.  Tell them both I sent you.  But now, before you go, Henry wants to share his poem with you.  I hope you like it as much as I do.

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 HAUNTED HOUSES

All houses wherein men have lived and died are haunted houses.

Through the open doors the harmless phantoms on their errands glide,

With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

We meet them at the doorway, on the stair,

Along the passages they come and go,

Impalpable impressions on the air, A sense of something moving to and fro.

There are more guests at table than the host invited;

the illuminated hall is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,

As silent as the pictures on the wall.

The stranger at my fireside cannot see the forms I see,

nor hear the sounds I hear;

He but perceives what is;

while unto me all that has been is visible and clear.

We have no title deeds to house or lands;

Owners and occupants from earlier dates

From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,

And hold to mortmain still their old estates.

The spirit world around this world of sense

Floats like an atmosphere,

And everywhere wafts through these earthly mists and vapors dense

A vital breath of more ethereal air,

Our little lives are kept in equipoise

By opposite attraction and desires;

The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,

And the more noble instinct that aspires.

These perterbations, this perpetual jar of earthly wants and aspirations high,

Come from an influence of an unseen star,

An undiscovered planet in our sky.

And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud

Throws o’er the sea a floating bridge of light,

Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd

Into the realm of mystery and light,  —

So from the world of spirits there descends,

A bridge of light connecting it with this,

O’er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,

Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.

Share Joy

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Carol Ann coming to call

I’m gonna wrap myself in paper

I’m gonna dab myself with glue

Put a stamp on top of my head

And I’m gonna mail myself to YOU!

Wishful thinking I know.  but as a Lady of Letters with a highly cultivated  imagination, it’s fun for me to think about doing just that, mailing myself to you so we could have a little visit over a cup of tea.  As it is, I have to be content writing you this post.

 The little poem  I’ve shared with you is actually lyrics to a  song  I used to teach  the children in my music classes at  schools in Boston and Cleveland.  It’s a Valentine’s Day song and Valentine’s Day is tomorrow.  Are you ready?

 Wouldn’t it be fun if we really could send ourselves  to everyone we cared about, all on the same day, the way Santa gets around?   We could bring along a present for each person  — a sentimental, beribboned, and flowery present.  I’d love to come over to your house with my pot of tea and  some of the Valentine cupcakes I’m making.

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Maybe I could bring you some flowers too.  Everybody loves fragrant  fresh flowers, don’t they?

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But if you’re one of the rare people who doesn’t like flowers, I bet you’d like a box of chocolates!

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These are for my husband  – mums the words – but I’d be happy to get some candy for you too, if only I could pop over to your house tomorrow… but I can’t.

I should be sending you a greeting card.  Cards and letters are always nice when you can’t visit in person.  I was delighted  to receive this pretty card from my pen friend Joy.

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 Joy is the perfect name for this lady for she shares joy with me in every one of her letters.  But how does one send cards to all the people they care about?  Daily life gets so in the way for these thoughtful  things we want to do.

Some of my friends even make their own special greeting cards.  That’s what my pen friend Gwen does and she sent this card to me.

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She’s getting so good at making her cards, they hardly look home made.  They’re beautiful – just like Gwen.

Most people love holidays, but as nice as they are, I have to admit holidays frustrate me.  That’s because I’d love to make every holiday very special, celebrating each one with every person I care about, creating all the pretty things I imagine or see  in the glossy pages of magazines.  But I can’t manage it!!! … just as I can’t wrap myself up with paper, dab myself with glue, put a stamp on top of my head and mail myself to you — and  it’s so FRUSTRATING!

All I can do is  keep a song in my heart (and that I can manage because, after all, I AM a  music teacher)  and let my little light shine, sharing love and joy in bits and pieces with everyone I meet…  not just on holidays, but every day.  A smile here,  a greeting card there, an invitation to tea, sending a friendly letter, giving compliments, paying visits …little things done with love.   It’s not just Valentine’s Day and other holidays that should be special.  Everyday should be special and everyday we should share joy in some way.  If we all do this our world would be a nicer place for sure.  And this reminds me of the lyrics to another song.

I’m gonna make this world a better place

I’m gonna make this world a better place

I’m gonna make this world a better place

Just by being me

I’m gonna care about others not just about me

Gonna make a difference you will see.

There’s got to be more to life than things

And I’m gonna find out what that means

So have yourself a Happy Valentine’s Day, but if you can’t get around to everyone you love on this one day, or on any other holiday, don’t fret, there’s always tomorrow.

to

SHARE JOY

How did you share joy today?  I’d love to know.  Please leave a comment.

French food anyone?

I love French food – so yummy, French people  – so chic,  the French language – so musical, and a trip to France –  so romantic, so naturally when I heard about a French cafe and bakery I had to investigate

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The blue door
     Friends told me about this establishment,  the Blue Door Cafe,  and it’s aptly named,  for it truly does have a blue entrance door, but curious and hungry minds like mine (and maybe  like yours) want to know just exactly what is behind this blue door.  I took it upon myself to find out.

I stepped inside and was shown to a table.  A quick look around told me the place was clean and  that’s always most important in a restaurant. The Blue Door is not a fancy place, but that’s ok with me because  restaurants that are too slick often lack charm. (And if you’ve ever been to Europe you’ll agree that many of the restaurants  in small villages there are quite  unpretentious too.)

I was smart to arrive at The Blue Door on an off hour, not the morning breakfast time  nor the busy lunch  rush, so the place wasn’t very crowded.

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This was good for me because I was able to talk to the staff, ask  many questions, and of course,  Take Pictures!

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And here  they are!  Meet the people behind the scene who make the kitchen run like clockwork.  Happy-looking people, aren’t they?  Maybe they’re so happy because their work day is nearly over and they’ll be free to go home soon, but I suspect they’re always  happy because they love their work, and happy bakers make happy, delicious food.

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The girls
 And here are the girls who take the orders, work behind the counter,  deliver the food,  do the cleanup and probably do a lot more too … they do it all with big smiles on their faces and I think that’s very  important.  My spiritual directives tell me we should all be of service to others, but we must do our work with joy or it doesn’t count at all.

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Mike, The owner and head baker
And here’s THE MAN, the man behind the whole operation.  This is Mike.  He told me about his training and some of his  plans for the restaurant.  I applaud him.  It’s important we all pursue our dreams and that’s exactly was Mike is doing, and I’ll tell you, he makes a mean croissant.  Take a look at the delicious sandwich I ordered.

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The Croissant Monsieur
This sandwich is the Blue Door’s version of a traditional French Bistro style sandwich (using a house made large croissant) with extra bold imported Dijon mustard, Leoncini ham, cave-aged imported Gruyere, and house-made bechamel/ served with house-made chips.  I enjoyed it very much along with  a cup of their delicious  house ground Angel Falls coffee, coffee that is  made right here in Akron, Ohio.

If you have a chance to go to France… Go! … by all means, but if not, go to the Blue Door Cafe for breakfast or for  lunch.  Watch a little of A Year in Provence first, and then step into the cafe and let the food take you the rest of the way,  away to a French experience – at least  to a French food experience.

The mission of the Blue Door Cafe is to offer you, their guest, an ever-changing menu full of healthy, creative and house-made dishes using as many of the freshest, high-quality and local ingredients as possible.

If you love good food as I do, good French food, and if you live anywhere near Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio this place is for you, but if you’re reading this from some far off location I hope I haven’t made you too hungry.  I hope you can find a good French cafe and bakery to enjoy in your own area, but if not,  take out your cook books and try to make your own croissants and brioche.  Necessity is the mother of invention.

Bon Appetite!

My Friend Phil

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Phil and his Punxsutawney friends
Hi there!  I want you to meet my friend.  It’s Phil.  He’s the furry fellow second from the left.  I’m so very lucky to have many friends.  I have my delightful  local friends, my wonderful pen friends, all my outstanding “dead friends” and of course,  my  extraordinary animal friends.

Each category of friendship adds its own very special element of delight.  Each is worthy of discussion, but today, on the Eve of Groundhog Day, I’d like to focus on an animal friend, one particular animal friend I’ve had the pleasure of knowing since I was a very little girl.  That fellow is none other than Groundhog Phil.

You’ve probably heard of him.  Phil is a famous weather  man, (well, not really a weather man!  He’s a weather critter)  from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  Phil was the first to predict just when Spring will arrive based on seeing his shadow or not seeing it.  He’s had  lots of copy cats, but isn’t that what always happens when people and critters spot a good idea?

I had the opportunity to meet Phil and get to know  his world first hand because my father happens to be from Punxsutawney too, just like Phil, and I’ve been to their sweet Pennsylvania town many times over the years.  You may have seen Phil in the movies, but I have had the good fortune of seeing him many times in person.  Don’t you love to meet celebrities?

Phil lives in a neat groundhog  abode equipped with everything a groundhog could want.  It’s built into  a lovely modern public building  with a big, fancy picture window.  His home  is located right in the center of Punxsy’s town square.   Location!  Location!  It’s not surprising  to find him in such a cushy residence  because after all, you wouldn’t expect a famous personality to live in a dump, now would you?   There, in his own private world, he has fun lounging about, enjoying  the good life, with a great view of the town he loves so much,  the  town that put him on the map – made him world famous.  Of course like all celebrities he has to sacrifice privacy.  The picture window he likes so much allowing him to look out at the world  also allows his many fans to spy on his every move — fans like me!

You would be impressed to see the statue of Phil in downtown Punxsutawney, but it’s no surprise for a famous townsman — oops, townscritter, to  be memorialized in this manner.  After all, Phil is not only a famous weather critter, he’s also a  movie star.  You must’ve seen his film, Groundhog Day, where he co-starred with Bill Murray, but if you haven’t seen it yet, or even if you have,  tomorrow would be the perfect day to watch it again or for the first time.

A scene from Phil's hit movie, GROUNDHOG DAY
A scene from Phil’s hit movie, GROUNDHOG DAY

I’ll have to make a point to schedule one of my next Country Inn Days in  Punxsutawney, pay Phil a call, and visit a few country cousins while I’m at it.  Groundhog Day would be the perfect time for such an outing, but then again, any time is a good time to visit friends and family, isn’t it?   Come to think of it, Phil would  probably be too busy on Groundhog Day for company anyway.

So if you’re looking for a really different escape from your work-a-day world take a jaunt over to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and if you drop over at Phil’s place say hello to him for me.  I’m happy I could give you this idea and  share my friend with you today.  You know what I always say —sharing doubles the joy!   And by reminding you about Groundhog Day a day early you still have a little time to plan your Groundhog Day party.  (I bet you almost forgot.)  That’s what I’m going to do right now…so I guess I’ll just catch you later… and one more thing.

Famed weather prognosticating groundhog Punxsutawney Phil has only one eye open as he prepares to make his annual prediction on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney

HAVE YOURSELF A HAPPY GROUNDHOG DAY

PS – Meet one of those country cousins,  Jason.  A director of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club— a Punxy man and proud of it!

Cousin Jason
Cousin Jason